7 best places to spot foliage

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By Randee Dawn

“O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.”

— Robert Frost, “October”

Ah, fall! For many Americans, it’s the most beautiful time of the year – especially if you live in rural areas populated by trees that, when conditions are right, ripen and burst into gorgeous, eye-dazzling color. Fleeting and often subject to a combination of unpredictable weather patterns, autumn’s annual show is rarely less than delightful and often purely dazzling.

Soon, dedicated leaf-peepers will be taking to the roads to hunt down and drive (and walk) among one of nature’s most curious displays. But with only a limited number of days to choose from, where are the most glorious spots to find the best displays?

First off, start here or here and be sure to gauge exactly where you’ll want to go; peak foliage times out differently every year in different places. But assuming you can schedule your visit to the trees at just the right time, here are seven top places around the country you’ll want to visit. (And while you’re there, add in some wine tastings, antique shopping and hiking – because soon enough, we’ll all be hibernating, just like the trees, as winter comes!)

  1. Lake Placid, New York

    With the Adirondack Mountains in full color, the contrast of earth tones and the crisp clarity of the lake are not to be missed. Maples, aspen, oaks and beech trees are all part of the Olympic Trail scenic byway that runs for over 170 miles. Another idea: The Fall Foliage Train tour, which runs on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. (Photo Credit: Lake Placid Region/Flickr)

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  1. Aspen, Colorado

    When your town is literally the name of a tree, that’s a good sign. The ski resort area of Aspen has a brief foliage season, but the sheer majesty of the golden tree-covered landscape makes it a must-see. Consider a drive through Maroon Bells , the peaks considered the “most photographed” in all of Colorado, just 10 miles west of Aspen. (Photo Credit: US Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

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  1. Salem, Massachusetts

    Few towns come into their own in the fall months better than Salem, home to the former historical “witch” trials. Autumn is time for the town to kick off their “Haunted Happenings,” which kick off in October. This particular leaf-peep is best done with the car parked, walking through town to see how the tree-lined streets set off the grandeur of homes that are hundreds of years old. Drivers can then hit road and head south to Saugus and check out Birch Pond, a favorite foliage spot for writers looking for inspiration. (Photo: Birch Pond, Saugus, Credit: Jeff Floger, Massachusetts Office of Tourism)

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  1. Oakland, Maryland 

    In 2014, Travel & Leisure plucked the otherwise rarely-visited town in Garrett County, Maryland, as the top spot for fall colors, specifically at Swallow Falls State Park. In addition to the trees, Muddy Creek Falls is a sight to behold, a 53-foot waterfall into the Youghiogheny River. While down there, check out the Annual Autumn Glory Festival. (Photo Credit: Visit Maryland)

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  1. Franklin, Tennessee

    If you miss out on classic New England foliage, consider heading south; fall colors are available all the way into early November in Tennessee. Downtown Franklin is south of Nashville and provides a chance to stroll among the trees along a 16-block walk that’s part of the National Register of Historic places. Afterward, check out the Natchez Trace Parkway, which provides hundreds of miles of further chances to catch the beauty. Drivers can also take a ride through the Cherokee National Forest by way of the beautiful Cherohala Skyway.  (Photo: Cherohala Skyway, East Tennessee, Credit: Tennessee Department of Tourism)

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  1. The Gold Coast, Michigan

    Start out in Traverse City, and the roads are yours for around 100 miles. Drive along Lake Michigan’s shores through fishing towns and pass maple and oak leaves that contrast nicely with the evergreens. Explore the Upper Peninsula through Oswald’s Bear Ranch to Tahquamenon Falls State Park  50,000 acres of largely undeveloped woodlands spread over 13 miles.(Photo Credit: Jim Sorbie/Flickr)

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  1. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

    Oregon is notable for being scenic all times of the year, but in fall the big-leaf maples, cottonwoods, ash and twisted pines all come together for a marvelous show in the fall. Drive along the Columbia River, hike trails or kayak/raft down the river, while Mt. Hood rises over 11,000 feet to provide an even more beautiful backdrop. (Photo Credit: Bret Vogel/Flickr)

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